The Campi Flegrei supervolcano located under the Italian city of Naples might be about to reawaken. If it blows, it could affect millions of people who live in the area. This slumbering volcano caused one of the largest eruptions on earth thousand years ago.
French and Italian scientists have been tracking this volcano for several years. Recently they identified a threshold beyond which magma under the surface could begin the release of gasses and fluids out of the volcano. However, they still can’t tell when the volcano will erupt or if it will.
“In general, unfortunately, volcanology is not a precise science,” said Gustavo Chiodini, the research leader, via e-mail. “We have many uncertainties and long-term previsions are at the moment not possible! For example, the process that we describe could evolve in both directions: toward pre-eruptive conditions or to the finish of the volcanic unrest.”
One of the world’s largest supervolcanos is reawakening
One of the world’s most dangerous volcanos is showing signs of movement under the city of Naples. It might be reaching a critical pressure point that could lead to an eruption of the first time in 500 years.
The Campi Flegrei caldera was formed about 39,000 years ago, where there were released hundreds of cubic kilometers of lava, rock, and debris into the air. According to scientists, it was Europe’s largest eruption in the last 20,000 years. The last eruption of this supervolcano occurred in 1538, although it erupted in a much smaller scale. It is nearby Monte Vesuvius supervolcano, whose eruption was responsible for burying large settlements such as Pompeii in AD 79.
Chiodini, a researcher at Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Bologna, explains that a volcano is called supervolcano when it is capable of ejecting a volume of material greater than 1,000km3, which is thousands of times larger than regular eruptions.
Settlements nearby Campi Flegrei, including the dense urban population of Naples ask for more information about Campi Flegrei’s behavior. But the scientists can’t tell when exactly the eruption will happen or if it will, in fact, occur. They said that there is enough pressure under the earth’s surface to trigger the release of fluids and gasses at a 10-fold increased rate.
“Hydrothermal rocks, if heated, can ultimately lose their mechanical resistance, causing an acceleration towards critical conditions”, said Giovanni Chiodini.
Chiodini If the volcano erupts ‘it will be very dangerous’
Though it is impossible to predict the future behavior of Campi Flegrei supervolcano. Chiodini said that it would be extremely dangerous if it erupts since it would put at risk the lives of millions. Since 2005, the Campi Flegrei caldera has been specially tracked. Scientists say it has been undergoing an ‘uplift’ which drove Italian authorities to raise the alert level from green to yellow in 2012, highlighting the need for active scientific monitoring.
The pace of deformation of the ground and the level of seismic activity has recently increased in the area. Other supervolcanos – such as Rabaul in Papua New Guinea, and Sierra Negra in the Galapagos – showed the same signal of ground deformation as Campi Flegrei’s before they erupted.
The study was published in the scientific journal Nature Communication on Tuesday.